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Regarding Henry
  • Composed by Georges Delerue

Starring Harrison Ford at the peak of his popularity, directed by the great Mike Nichols, one of the first films written by future star J.J. Abrams – surely a film about which all that holds true must have been a blockbuster success. Well no, not Regarding Henry, which was in fact completely the opposite of that, a disaster both critically and commercially. Ford plays a lawyer who is generally a shitty person, then gets shot, loses all his memory and as he rebuilds his life decides he really doesn’t think much of his former self and so is determined to go in a different direction.

After an unfavourable test screening Universal executives thought they had just the recipe to solve all the movie’s problems which was to throw out the classy score written by Georges Delerue; director Nichols – working with the composer for the fourth time – was sorry to see it go and made clear he would work with the composer again in the future – but sadly he never got the chance, because within twelve months Delerue’s life came tragically to a premature end. (Spoiler alert: rejecting the score did not solve the movie’s problems.)

Georges Delerue

His rejected music was released on album by Universal France in 2011, paired with half an hour from Something Wicked This Way Comes (which was subsequently released more definitively by Intrada, a release reviewed separately so not covered here) on an album called “Georges Delerue: unused scores”. From the opening bars of the opening cue, “A Portrait of Henry”, it is clear that the composer gave – as always – everything of himself to the film. While that opening is quite sunny and optimistic, the main theme which emerges from the opening is more melancholic – but outrageously beautiful in a way that only Delerue could do.

“Back to Life” moves from a dark feeling of suspended animation (thanks to the muted horns that sit under the wash of strings) to a sudden feeling of awakening as the full orchestra swells up – there’s a feeling of uncertainty though, not some sudden “oh everything’s OK now then” – and this leads into the almost elegiac “Amnesia”, a stirring lament for what has been lost – the green shoots of recovery emerge though with a tender oboe solo (underneath which the composer adds some lovely strings). Delerue was a master at conveying inner thoughts and emotions and to me that appears to be what he’s doing very successfully here.

In “Finding Love” the composer explores more of that theme that was heard just fleetingly at the start of the opening track – beautiful, sprightly strings create the sunniest of demeanours, the melody a real gem. We hear the outstanding main theme again in the cue’s final minute or so, much more laid-back this time, the melancholic feel now absent. Rarely can a track title have been so on-the-nose as “Sentimental Calliope” – the calliope is not an instrument I would often think of as being ideal for creating a sentimental feel – but I rather suspect Georges Delerue could have made anything feel a bit sentimental if he’d wanted to.

Sentiment remains the order of the day in “A New Birth”, a five-minute piece full of sweetness and wonder. The first half of the piece sees the composer exploring a simpler, slower idea than his main theme but one which has a similar effect – then in the second half, he wheels that theme out again and it’s like an emotional hammer blow. In the stirring “Erased Memory”, the feeling flips back again – now the strings are conveying undoubted sadness, and the feeling becomes suddenly very tense as a harp glissando signals a change of mood, gentle dissonance being introduced.

The optimistic feel returns in “Speech Therapy”, a pleasant little motif swirling around repeating many times before an oboe leads into a more deeply dramatic passage of music. Next in “Henry’s New Personality”, Delerue leaves you in little doubt as to which way the character has gone: it’s a delightful piece of music, full of life and full of love, romantic strings and winds playing all-new melodic material for one of the score’s strongest tracks. The strongest of all is saved for the end, however – the end title piece somewhat tentatively building up to that main theme – and when it gets there, boy does it get there, with the most rapturous, joyous musical expression soaring away in vintage Delerue style.

I suppose it doesn’t really matter now whether it was sensible to reject the score – the film is largely forgotten, three decades down the line – I won’t be forgetting Delerue’s music any time soon though. He was a real force of nature, able to take any kind of film and make it come to life with great sincerity, always sounding like he really meant whatever feeling he was providing regardless of how far beneath him the film may have been. Regarding Henry is such beautiful music – emotionally rich, dramatically powerful, like the best film music always is – and with an absolute killer of a main theme.

Rating: **** 1/2 | |

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  1. Ben (Reply) on Monday 13 September, 2021 at 10:44

    To say that the film “Regarding Henry” was a complete disaster is false. Though reviews were mostly negative, the film was a commercial success.

    It cost $25-million to make, and it raked in $43-million at the US box office, and then even more millions in revenue from European, Asian and Australian markets. Factor in home video and it actually turned out to be a highly profitable movie.